Released: 2016, Unique Leader Records
Reviewer: Peter Atkinson
After nearly a decade as a band, Quebec's First Fragment have finally issued their debut full-length. And despite the lengthy build-up, they quickly establish themselves among the top tier of Canadian tech-death bands alongside Beyond Creation, Archspire, Cryptopsy, etc., with Dasein.
Not sure what took the band so damn long to get the album out – although lead guitarist Phil Tougas is involved with a gaggle of other projects, which might explain a thing or two. There was a self-released EP back in 2010, but nothing since. But if they were working all the while to hone their chops and songcraft, then it was time well spent, because Dasein flat out nails it.
Unbelievable, often awe-inspiring musicianship capped by engaging, well-constructed songs that are actually “songy” and not merely a bunch of fancy-schmancy parts strung together make Dasein a dynamite debut. These guys are like a death metal version of Dragonforce, only without the smug sense of self-satisfaction and deliberately indulgent wankery. Or, unfortunately, the over-the-top, but resplendent vocals.
If there is one glaring weakness on Dasein, it's the scraggly, sometimes off-putting roar of frontman, and occasional loogie-hocker, David AB - and the tag-team screaming of Tougas - that can take the steam out of an otherwise brilliant song like “Émergence.” Oh yeah, the lyrics are all in French, not that you can really discern them anyway. But c'est la vie.
And I doubt many people are going to listen to First Fragment for the lyrics or vocals in the first place. Dasein is mostly about instrumental dazzle, and in massive, unrelenting quantities. Tougas and Gabriel Brault-Pilon put on a veritable clinic with their guitar dodge-and-parry dexterity here and tracks like “Mordêtre Et Dénaissance,” “Gula” or “Psychan (Apothéose, Partie 2)” will leave your synapses smoldering. The absurdly monumental 9:35-long closer “Evhron” just seems like piling on.
Bassist Vincent Savary shows himself to be their equal, with his sleek, fluid fingerwork anchoring the material here - alongside session drummer Troy Fullerton of Severed Savior, no slouch himself – while also getting in on plenty of solo action. Guests like ex-Obscura/current Alkaloid guitarist Christian Muenzner and Augury's Mathieu Marcotte only help to up the considerable instrumental ante.
To go with the fusillade of tech-death pyrotechnics, the guys also show something of a softer side with the sexy flamenco guitaring that leads into the instrumental “L’entité” and the brief classical foray “Prélude En Sol Dièse Mineur.” Both are eloquent and flawless executed. But then again, just about everything is here.
Dasein sets the bar pretty high for First Fragment. Hopefully it won't take another 10 years to hear what more they have up their sleeves.